Thursday, 26 January 2017

Labour's abdication

The function of opposition is not a hard one to grasp.  It is to challenge, pry and expose the inconsistencies, weaknesses and crassness of the governing party - and with the illegitimate and fascist-appeasing Theresa May the target is broad and widening by the day.  Any opponent worth their salt will exploit this vacancy and amorality, the subversion of the constitution and the looming economic catastrophe.

In extraordinary times, the sheer depravity of the current regime would be the focus of rage and anger.  May is an evil force, marshalling inadequates, fellow-travellers and outright neo-Nazis on the fringe of the Tory party to manipulate and intimidate.  Despite relatively good news on the immediate economic front (discounting inflation, investment, wages growth, the current account deficit and the state of the public finances), all the signs are there that there is no panacea to the self-inflicted shocks inflicted through leaving the European trading zone and looking for favours from an unhinged charlatan whose swivel-eyed political vomiting has become more abhorrent rather than less since his hypocritical inauguration.

This week, the rule of law was upheld, and immediately the traitors around May commenced subverting it once more.  The real opponents of this seditious government got to work - the Sturgeons, the Farrons and the Lucases of this world.  The inconsistency, the contempt for representative democracy and the failure of Cameron's government to prepare for eventualities were all on display.  Yet there was a notable absence from the challenge, the official Opposition and its Leader.

The apologists for Corbyn, who vary from those for whom his behaviour is a cult similar to that which operated around the shadier figures of the 1980s Trotskyite left (think Ted Grant, Gerry Healy) to those who are rightly delighted that he is not kow-towing to the hard right agenda dictated by England's irresponsible media, would point to his worthy denunciations of the havoc currently being wrought on the NHS and public services.  This is all very well, but by being complicit in the national vandalism that the government is now unleashing he has taken a path that invites little but contempt.

My personal view remains pro-European, but that does not mean that I wish the results of an advisory referendum to be ignored.  Corbyn is not merely abetting those who wish to progress this result, but he is legitimising a position that suggests that there is not merely a "decisive" margin of support from the referendum but that the "overwhelming" desire of those who voted to leave is for a particularly malevolent and damaging path that will make the depredations of the Thatcher period look like a form of utopian socialist experiment.

Announcing that his MPs are expected to support an inadequate government Bill to allow Mrs May to pull the trigger on national extinction and the end of the Union is the act not of a leader but of someone fatally unequipped for the role.  For his myriad faults, Blair at least understood that a weak government needs to be hounded out of office through its idiocy, division and inconsistency being exposed to view.  The Tories are not coherent, united or able to command a national majority except through a corrupt system.  Corbyn should be chasing them down, exploiting the ongoing investigations into electoral fraud and the divisions between the knuckle-dragging far right and those prepared to make a stand for the national interest.

Instead, May has a free run at the destruction of the country.  Labour's dilemma remains that its MPs often represent constituencies which voted to leave Europe, so that opposition can be painted as betrayal.  Had Corbyn articulated that there were conditions for supporting the final triggering of Article 50, including support for the freedoms of movement, trade and the environment, alongside worker protection, he might have served supporters better.  Leadership is not about craven attempts to appease the fascists of UKIP and the Mail, but about adopting and articulating a position that would provide a point of contact for voters for whom the disillusion with the Brexit elite is likely to be lengthy and protracted.

Even without this, he has failed to grasp that the fissile nature of multi-party politics is a nuanced game.  The hapless Kezia Dugdale is trying to come to terms with a Scottish landscape where Labour will be largely irrelevant as a result of its eclipse in both policy and trust by the SNP, and Corbyn comes blundering into Glasgow with a message directly conflicting with that which she has spun.  The final abdication of Labour from leading opposition leaves a vacuum.

Despite pundits and soothsayers, what happens next is unclear.  Breaking down traditional party allegiances is protracted and unpredictable in a Westminster system that has been designed for monoliths.  As the next months and years unfold, I suspect that I shall be one of many prepared to vote for candidates who are aligned to a European model, especially those untainted by the current betrayals.  Corbyn and his coterie need to reflect that pandering to the far right's voters is not the same as winning them back, and that their actions are alienating many of those who have previously, at least in England, been prepared to give Labour the benefit of the doubt.

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